Czech Republic: 11 organizations call on Terezín to fly the LGBTQ and Romani flags during traditional commemoration
Eleven organizations working on LGBTQ and Romani topics have called on the Terezín Memorial to fly the LGBTQ (Rainbow) flag and the Romani flag next to the flags of nations whose members fell victim to Nazi persecution. "To our great surprise, there is no Romani flag flown at Terezín even though, together with Jewish people, it is the Roma as a group who were affected most by Nazi persecution in the Czech lands. More than 90 % of the interwar Romani population did not survive racial persecution and the war itself," the organizations write in an open letter to the members of the Commission for the Organization of the Terezín commemoration, which news server Romea.cz is publishing here in full translation.
Open letter to members of the Commission for the Organization of the Terezín Commemoration
CC: Dr. Jan Munk, director, Terezín Memorial
Dear Commission members,
We are writing to thank you for the effort and work you dedicate annually to organizing the commemoration honoring the memory of the victims of Nazi persecution. We are also turning to you regarding a sensitive, very important matter.
At the national cemetery in Terezín where this commemoration takes place, the flags of all the nations whose members fell victim to Nazi persecution and who passed through the concentration camps are flown during the commemoration ceremony. For many of those people, their distressing journey began by being transported to Terezín.
To our great surprise, there is no Romani flag flown at Terezín even though, together with Jewish people, it is the Roma as a group who were affected most by Nazi persecution in the Czech lands. More than 90 % of the interwar Romani population did not survive racial persecution and the war itself. Romani people were first assembled in reception camps administered by the Czech Protectorate Police, where many of them died, and the Romani prisoners who managed to survive the conditions in those camps were handed over to the SS and subsequently murdered in Nazi concentration camps. Most perished in the gas chambers of the Birkenau camp.
Romani people are currently the most numerous national minority living on the territory of the Czech Republic and also the biggest minority in Europe - according to expert estimates a minimum of 12 million Romani men and women live in Europe today. The Romani minority as a whole faces the very strong phenomenon of anti-Gypsyism today. In many European countries, including ours, Romani people suffer discrimination, segregation, and are squeezed out of any and every space where the majority society is also present. One distinct sign of anti-Gypsyism today is the denial, minimization, and questioning of the very fact of the Romani Holocaust, the questioning of whether Romani people actually suffered at that time. Various places where the Romani genocide occurred in Lety by Písek, for example, are covered with pig feces today because of the industrial pig farm on the sites where Romani children, men and women were tortured and died.
In previous years we have telephoned the director of the Terezín Memorial with our request that the Romani flag be flown during the ceremony, but he told us that he does not want to fly it because Romani people do not have their own state and the flags that are flown are the flags of existing nation-states. When we researched this argument, however, we ascertained that there is a precedent from the past which contravenes it, and that is the fact that at the Terezín commemorations held in 1945, 1946, 1947 and 1948, the Jewish flag was flown even though the state of Israel did not yet exist. We believe that flying the flag with the Star of David was absolutely appropriate at that time, as it represented a group that had been greatly afflicted by genocide and racial persecution irrespective of whether the state of Israel existed or not, and this is absolutely the same way the Romani victims would be represented if the internationally-recognized Romani flag were to be flown there today.
Just as we are asking that you fly the Romani flag, we are asking that you fly the Rainbow Flag, which represents the LGBTQ community. Together with Jewish people, people living with disabilities, people suffering from genetic illnesses and Romani people, the LGBTQ community was a main target of Nazi persecution. Members of the LGBTQ community died in the concentration camps solely because of their minority sexual orientation, and many LGBTQ survivors were subjected to absurd Nazi "experiments" and forcibly sterilized. Just like the suffering of the Roma, the genocide of the LGBTQ community was minimized, questioned, and relativized after the war. Members of the LGBTQ community were imprisoned and died both in the ghetto at Terezín and in the Small Fortress. Their suffering deserves the same respect as the suffering of other groups afflicted by the Holocaust.
We are asking that you fly both the LGBTQ (Rainbow) and Romani flags among the other flags representing the victims of Nazi persecution during this year's ceremony. All victims of the Holocaust deserve to be honored and respected and their memory, especially today, deserves to be recalled.
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